“Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is shocked and appalled to learn that planning permission to create a large solar farm on a nationally important wildlife site, Rampisham Down in west Dorset, has just been approved,” says the trust’s chief executive Dr Simon Cripps.
The 72 ha (187 acres) Rampisham Down is a legally protected SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) set in the heart of a nationally protected landscape, and is one of the largest sites of lowland acid grassland remaining in England. It is home to an incredibly rare grouping of plants and fungi, including eyebright and waxcap fungi, and supports a range of wildlife from adders to skylarks.
“DWT is even more shocked to discover that an alternative site, on the other side of the road, has been made available for the solar farm, yet still West Dorset District Councillors voted in favour of the unnecessary destruction of this wildlife-rich Rampisham Down site,” added Dr Cripps. “With a viable alternative site available, we can’t understand why the council have allowed this important wildlife site to be lost to developers. Dorset Wildlife Trust supports renewable energy, in the right place. These special, legally protected wildlife sites are few and far between and there’s no need to destroy them, especially in this case, when there is a perfectly acceptable alternative site nearby, which we support.
“National Planning Policy is clear that developments on protected sites such as Rampisham, should not go ahead if alternatives are available. DWT will be lobbying Natural England to take immediate action to ask the Secretary of State to overturn this perverse decision. The Wildlife Trusts will be launching a national campaign to stop this needless destruction of our natural heritage.”
In response, Councillor Ian Gardner, Chairman of West Dorset District Council’s Development Control Committee, said: “In taking this decision we had to balance the economic and environmental benefits of the solar farm and the removal of the 34 redundant masts with the impact of the proposed scheme. There will now be a 21-day “cooling off” period to meet the requirements of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and to allow Natural England to consider the conditions agreed by the committee.”